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The most common symptoms are
Sometimes AKI can occur without any symptoms and can only be picked up by a blood test.
There are many causes of AKI. The most common are dehydration (due to vomiting and diarrhoea), infections, certain medications (for example certain antibiotics) and blockage of one or both of the tubes leading from the kidneys to the bladder.
Some people are more at risk of developing AKI than others, especially if they are older and have other medical conditions, for example underlying kidney disease, heart failure or diabetes.
Sometimes drugs that are being taken for other reasons can affect the kidneys, leading to AKI. These include:
AKI is usually diagnosed from a blood test that looks at the level of a substance called creatinine in the blood. High levels of creatinine mean that the kidneys are not getting rid of waste products as well as they should.
Sometimes a sample of urine will be checked for blood and protein (dipstick test) and an ultrasound scan of the kidneys will be done to pick up any blockages.
Very occasionally a kidney biopsy may be needed to work out what is causing AKI. This involves taking a very small sample of tissue from one kidney using a fine needle. The area will be numbed using local anaesthetic.
Treatment for AKI will depend on the underlying cause. You may need fluids via a drip if you are dehydrated. If there is an infection then antibiotics may be used. If there is a blockage of the bladder, then a catheter may be needed (this involves a thin, flexible tube being inserted into the bladder to drain it).
Rarely, drugs such as steroids may be needed to help prevent further damage to the kidneys.
In most patients with AKI, kidney function will return to normal. Regular blood tests will help your doctor to know whether this is the case. Very occasionally, AKI can get worse despite treatment. When this occurs, dialysis is sometimes needed.
Dialysis is a treatment that involves being connected to a special dialysis machine that cleans the blood. This is usually a temporary treatment while the kidneys recover. Very rarely (in about 3 in 100 patients), the kidneys fail to recover meaning that treatment with dialysis will need to continue permanently.
Patients who have had AKI are more at risk of developing it again in the future. They are also more at risk of developing a long-term kidney problem known as chronic kidney disease (CKD) so will need long-term monitoring by their GP.
If you have been seen in hospital and diagnosed with an AKI, we will discharge you if it has improved with treatment or if it is only a mild AKI. We will ask you to follow up with your GP for blood tests in a week to ensure your kidney function is improving.
It is important to drink well to ensure your urine is light (unless you have a restriction to your fluid intake for example due to heart failure).
This information is intended for patients receiving care in Brighton & Hove or Haywards Heath.
The information in this article is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.
Publication Date: August 2019
Review Date: November 2021